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The sexual health needs of looked after young people : findings from qualitative interviews led through public health and health psychology

Dale, Hannah and Watson, Lorna and Adair, Pauline and Moy, M and Humphris, Gerald (2011) The sexual health needs of looked after young people : findings from qualitative interviews led through public health and health psychology. Journal of Public Health, 33 (1). pp. 86-92. ISSN 1741-3842

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Looked after young people (LAYP) have poorer sexual health outcomes than their peers. However, research seldom examines the health needs of, or intervenes with, this group. The aim of the current study was to identify LAYP's perceived sexual health needs and explore sources of sexual health information, knowledge levels, concerns and service preferences. Looked after young people within Fife, Scotland, were recruited through their workers and carers to participate in qualitative semi-structured interviews. Those aged 12–19 years were targeted for recruitment. National Health Services ethics approval was granted. Thematic analysis was conducted using NVivo. Interviews were conducted with 10 LAYP. Key themes included gaps in knowledge, and gaps between knowledge and behaviour. Being ‘looked after’ may have negative consequences on knowledge, sources of support and safer sex. A flexible, one-to-one service, aimed at several lifestyle issues, not solely sexual health, was preferred by respondents. Looked after young people require support to bridge the gap between knowledge and behaviour and several theories relevant to the findings have been identified. Participants desired more support around a range of health issues, which may come from school, workers and carers, as well as health professionals. Further research examining effective interventions with this group is crucial to improve outcomes.